Instagram's new terms of service should make you feel dirty
Instagram will soon have the right to exploit its users in any way it sees fit. Here's why I'm considering quitting
In its new terms of service, announced Monday, photo-sharing app Instagram noted that its goal in revamping the rules is to better "protect" its users. But what Instagram really means by "protect" is actually the polar opposite of the very definition.
You see, the company's new terms of service seeks to exploit every filter-flecked photo you've ever shared through its beloved app. Well, maybe not every photo; just the ones it sees fit to use for ads. The ones that it can possibly turn over for a profit to some outside affiliate or ad guy.
Fortunately, for what it's worth, Instagram won't be able to claim anything you've shot and shared until Jan. 16, when these new changes go into effect. Photos snapped up until that point will not be up for grabs.
So, what exactly does all of this mean? It means that we're all products, ripe for the plucking, as far as Instagram (and a myriad of other social networks -- Facebook, anyone? -- and startups) is/are concerned. Maybe we should have known better when we decided to fall head-over-lo-fi-heels in love with a free service.
After all, these companies do need to make money at some point, right? But is it really just that? Should we believe that if we actually paid for addictive apps like Instagram (like this Atlantic piece suggests) that we would, in fact, retain some shard of privacy?
The answer is no. Because companies that already receive mass sums of money from us on a monthly basis still choose to sell (what some might consider sensitive) information. Just take a look at your last Verizon bill, for a good example. How much does it make your blood boil to know that you're forking over your hard-earned dough to a company that can not only monitor every little thing you do with your phone, but can also turn that data over to advertisers?
If Instagram had started out as a paid service, chances are it still would have eventually done whatever it damn well pleased with our information. Probably it would have just gone about selling our impulse snapshots in a more subtle way. Instead, this is what we get (from Instagram's new agreement):
"Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you."
Translation: Eff you, loyal users.
Then again, the new terms of service may not even so much as strike a nerve in plenty of Instgram users. It's not like those photos have ever been private; all it takes to view a specific user's photos is an internet connection (just type in instagram.com, followed by /username). And let's not forget that Instagram's parent company, Facebook, has already had its digital paws deep in the pockets of our personal bits for quite some time now. And just look at how many people quit Facebook after that happened ... yeah, exactly ... like maybe five or something.
The fact is it that many of us have either become so desensitized to these modern mobile privacy concerns that it's all too easy to shrug off. And then there are folks who genuinely enjoy sharing every little photo-op (and have taken the liberty of offering up their Instagram shots long before this). Still, the lack of ownership and the stripping of privacy doesn't sit quite as well with everyone, myself included.
Honestly, I doubt I'll delete my account, because the fact of the matter is I don't use it nearly enough to feel gut-wrenching concern over what might happen with it. And really it's just a bunch of over-indulgent foodstuffs and beer. Lots of beer. I've never posted anything personal on Instagram, and at this point, I certainly never will.
But I am concerned for those who might be out of the loop on this, namely minors (and their parents). Especially since Instagram's new policy has made it clear that their tender age will not afford them any protection. To quote Nick Bilton's piece on the subject:
"Underage users are not exempt. Athough Instagram says people must be at least 13 years old to sign up for the service, the new terms note that if a teenager signs up, they are agreeing that a parent or guardian is aware that their image, username and photos can also be used in ads."
So, there's that. And it's pretty common for teens to (generally) use far less discretion in what they choose to share via their social networks. This specific part of Instagram's terms sounds as though it has the potential to cross some seriously unsettling lines.
And there's simply no opting out, not if you want to continue using the photo-sharing service. For now, the only thing that can be done to stop Instagram from using your photos and information for its own monetary gain is to kiss your account goodbye. And you'll have to make that decision before Jan. 16.
On a lighter note, here's an Instagram of a man doing chin-ups in a banana suit.